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How can best practice and the wealth of successes with technologies in education be used to overcome institutionalised resistance to change?

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James Powell
5 April 2011

Often times, the idea of change itself is the biggest barrier to the introduction of new practices, and that seems to be true of the introduction of new tehcnologies. How often have you tried to inspire the use of a new method of assessing students, or simply tries to upend existing practices in a attempt to undermine long-standing problems.

With new technologies - especially in an era where new technologies are appearing almost every week - these barriers seem to be even higher. The barriers seem to be composed of fear or change, but also technophobia; doubts about their usefulness; the idea of "fads"; lack of reliable, empirical evidence about their usefulness; or more simply, lack of time, support or resources to really explain how specific new technologies can be used effectively.

But there are practitioners dotted within all of this who are implementing complimentary technologies in their contexts, not only with great success, but with new and inspiring implications for education more widely. Whether this be through adventures in Second Life or more simply, using prezi for presentations, or wikis to encourage stronger collaboration and evaluation amongst teachers and students. But where is all this good practice being documented? And how can it all be drawn upon in a way that encourages staff and institutions to take it up? How can the technologies and the successful use of them be exposed in a clear way that help overcome resistance to change?


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James Powell
12:19pm 5 April 2011

Er, I think I'll contribute first to this discussion.

Is there a repository that can set up on Cloudworks for that very purpose? Obviously, a cloudscape with some kind of distinct parameter such as:

Ideas in practice


Technology in use

Does anyone know if this is already a distinct cloudscape for this purpose here? I'll look, but haven't found anything yet.

There are ideas related to particular technologies, but how do you encourage more resistant forces to take the time to look? One thing that would make it easier to promote would be along the lines of: look here! click this link, go to this specifc page.

I've answered this question, I see - but the second challenge is publicising it to those innovators who are doing stuff - and encouraging them to share.


Rebecca Galley
12:44pm 5 April 2011 (Edited 12:48pm 5 April 2011)

Hi James, interestingly Cloudworks was originally set up with that purpose - to give educators a space to discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences with the aim of supporting increased use of technologies. So, there are lots of Clouds and Cloudscapes relating to the practical use of specific technologies (ie Twitter, Mindmapping tools, Web 2.0 tools, iApps, ePortfolios etc). I think it woud be great to pull together some of the most lively and interesting of these into a Cloudscape as you suggest. Would be good to see where the gaps are too.

James Powell
2:00pm 5 April 2011

Hi Rebecca,

I realised as I was writing the post that this was a guiding principle in the set up of this space.

But as you say, the site has become quite a resource, for lots of things, not limited to this particular goal. The challenge comes when you are trying to find new ideas i,e, if you haven't heard that "splobbyspots" are a great wy to stimluate discussion across temporal and spatial boundaries, you wouldn't necessarily know to click on that cloud.

Further, there is still the challenge of getting practitioners to share. how do you do promote this globally? (I'm sure this is also a goal for cloudworks! ;-))

Lastly, what to call it? What is an intuitive name for this kind of area - as the point is that it's easy to see, easy to find, easy to navigate to and around...

Any ideas? Perhaps a link at the top in bright pink?

Rebecca Galley
5:02pm 5 April 2011 (Edited 8:37am 6 April 2011)

There is of course the challenge of getting teachers to making sharing part of their practice - this is an issue many have attempted to get to the bottom of and it is fundemental and is becoming increasing urgent. You are right that Cloudworks hopes to support a shift in sharing practices. We have done a number of surveys looking at patterns of sharing between HE lecturers and although there does seem to be a significant amount sharing with close colleagues the level of sharing drops at each incremental step away from close colleagues. This means the sharing of best practice tends to be local rather than even institutional, let alone global. It is a global issue too - no countries seem to be better at it than others (although anyone, please correct me if I am wrong here). Mind you, we are also involved in a European project with some Cypriot partners and the Cypriot government is going to be requiring all teachers to put their lesson plans onto a database with visual representations of their designs for others to see - it will be interesting it that stimulates widespread sharing and repurposing of ideas and designs.


Matthew Moran
10:50am 6 April 2011

I'm constantly aware of this problem when dealing with academic colleagues and partners, i.e. willingness to embrace the opportunities of technology on the one hand, and on the other a lack of ready exemplars and, even more acutely, of the resources needed to track and evaluate (let alone adopt and embed) developments. Cloudworks is an excellent hub of knowledge, resources and insight. Moreover, I sense that what is needed are experienced and informed advocates who are able to join the dots between willing educators and best practice, and to do this locally, within project teams, and incrementally, during the ongoing work of production. For me, learning design, innovation and technology transfer are highly social, collaborative enterprises, though the participants need support from the structure. In my work I try to draw on my study of technology enhanced learning and ongoing developments, and to bring this to bear in my work with academic colleagues - instantiating the theories and debates, and experimenting with the technologies that we are all aware of.

In short, we need to breach the divide between theory and practice, and so the launch of the Technology Enhanced Learning intranet site is a welcome development.

James Powell
11:35am 6 April 2011

Hello Matthew

Is the TEL intranet available to students at the OU - or those studying H800 - like myself? I've tried to access it I cannot access it.



Matthew Moran
11:42am 6 April 2011

Dear James,

I'm afraid I don't administer the site (my post wasn't a shameless plug!) but I have raised a query with the relevant person. I'll let you know the outcome.

Best wishes,




James Powell
11:53am 6 April 2011

With regard to Rebecca's comment about the initiative in Cyprus. Wow! What is the publicly articulated rationale behind this move?

I'd be very interested in seeing / reading / hearing more about this if there is more information available Rebecca.

My inital response was: if nationally adhered to, this will become such a monster as to render it a rather useless resource. So much material that - unless there is an amazingly powerful database underneath it that can make sense of it, process it, catalogue it in a way that people can access it and make use of it - how is this going to benefit teaching?

Furthermore, I am wondering what formal training - a training that gets teachers using the same or similar technologies - is in place so that the sharing, adapting, re-purposing can actually take place?

Excuse my scepticism. I think it is a potentially wonderful initiative. Ín my context though, I can see some really important and immense obstacles to this working. (Which I don't for moment think is a reason not to do it! However, however, however...)

James Powell
11:56am 6 April 2011

Nothing wrong with shameless plugs!

Rebecca Galley
2:17pm 6 April 2011

We're meeting again on Monday so I'll ask for details.

Fergus Timmons
1:07pm 8 April 2011

Hi James and everyone else

I agree that this is a really important question, and one I am grappling with in my own institution at the moment. I feel there has to be a 'carrot and stick' approach to the task of overcoming institutional barriers to change.

So, firstly, we need educational institutions to draw up clearly articulated stragegic goals linked to the development and sharing of good practice in technology enhanced learning. These need to cascade down to academic staff. They need to be monitored and evaluated, and integrated into department plans etc. Crucially, they need to be well resourced, and staff need to be trained.

At the same time (and I agree absolutely with Matthew here), we as students and practitioners in this emerging and exciting field need to act as advocates of TEL with our colleagues who may be sceptcial. I see there I have only one colleague from my Institutioin with an account in Cloudworks ! So, I have my work cut out for me !

I think some of my colleagues may be sceptical through fear of the unknown, and a sense that teaching online is far more time intensive than say face-to-face delivery, where once the lecture is over, they don't see students (in all likelihood) until next week. So, the challenge is to present TEL as an efficient and flexible process, or sets of processes, that lead to quality outcomes.


Christine Lampe
4:33pm 8 April 2011

I agree with Fergus, that a bit of both carrot and stick is more effective than leaving it entirely up to individuals or local communities of practice. In most contexts, the barriers to adoption are pervasive--lack of time, resources, technical support, reliable systems, the list goes on. In these circumstances, keeping to the status quo is often quite a rational response. The reality is that developing new practices using new tools requires additional time. Many institutions would see a greater rate of adoption of new technologies just by providing more time specifically for professional development activities.

However, small exposures to new technologies can also lower the barriers. By incorporating more collaborative tools into the institutional  workflow we expose both teachers and administrators to the possibilities of these tools. Even substituting a link to a collaborative document instead of emailing an attachment can have a ripple effect on teaching and learning practices.

Rebecca Galley
8:33am 12 April 2011

Hi James - update on the lesson plan project I mentioned. There are two, one run by the Pedagogical Institute Greece and the other the Pedagogical Institute Cyprus. Both have very different approaches. With the Greek one the mass uploading of lesson plans is a government requirement but as far as I understand it they want to check every lesson plan that goes on there which is causing a bottle neck and the government in Greece does not control education in the way that our government does so the view is it is unlikely to happen in practice in a sustained way. The Cypriot project is voluntary but they have invested a great deal in terms of training and encouragement. Those uploads are going well but they are experiencing similar 'cultural' or digital literacy problems to the ones we have seen i.e. far more people taking than adding, issues with proper attributions of designs, reviews/feedback which can be very critical and unsupportive etc. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has experience of these projects - both very interesting.

Elena Kondyli
9:48pm 17 April 2011

Hello All,

I would like to agree with Christine above.  Sorry for my late reply though and for my late contribution to this debate.  The list of barriers is pretty long and in this list there is the lack of time, lack of resources and technical support is not enough or it does not even exist.  What can I say for the reliable systems? They need too much work in order to have reliable systems and of course it is true that teachers require more time than they already have in their teaching time in order to understand, evaluate, create or develop a new practice by engaging with a new technology.  Of course, when there is time then the results would be better and the adoption would be more easily and more preferably adopted as the time won't be a major role for malfunction of adopting a new technology.

Additionally, when there is collaboration among the system, between all the roles, there is a clear supportive environment, thus creating a required teaching and learning practice easier than by having the top barriers and bad communication and collaboration in a system.

Just some thoughts...

James Powell
9:38am 18 April 2011

Hi Rebecca

Thanks for the feedback about the Greek and Cypriot experiences. They are ambitious projects to coordinate at a national level.

How did it work in Cyprus with regard to the training? Who were trained? What level of education (primary /secondary?). have they considered something like: identifying those teachers who were really active / prolific in uploading lesson plans and (if they were good /brilliant) givng them new roles in the system? Ambassadors for their locale/region; trainers for newly qualified teachers (to set new precedents for work activity / sharing / community building); etc.

Having it nationally / centrally administered to the degree that is implied in the Greek pilot seems like a terrible idea to me. Of course, I'm basing this on my experience in these sorts of initiatives in the Netherlands. Of course there needs to be overview, but really, one size, never fits all, so implementation needs to allow for local nuance. Denying that seems to be foolhardy at best, but at worst, plain arrogant.




James Powell
9:46am 18 April 2011

Hi Christine

Thanks for the post. It seems so simple, but makes an awful lot of sense really. By "serruptitiously" enabling staff to start using the tools themselves, of course the pitfalls and the benefits are more easily revealed.

My "fondness" for wikis is certainly based on my experience of having used them professionally. As is my understanding of their limitations in certain respects. Indeed, I'd rather teachers were reluctant to use them from their experience rather than their ignorance. I can work with "no" if there are strong arguments about effectiveness. Getting past the "no" cause I haven't the time / energy / inclination / interest to find out is a real mountain.


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